Genetic disruption of cytosine DNA methyltransferase enzymes induces chromosomal instability in human cancer cells

Adam R. Karpf, Sei Ichi Matsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1)-deficient mice are tumor-prone, and this has been proposed to result from the induction of genomic instability. To address whether loss of DNMT1, or the related protein DNMT3b, results in genomic instability in human cancer cells, we used a near-diploid human colorectal cancer cell line, HCT116, in which one or both DNMT genes were disrupted by homologous recombination. Array-based comparative genomic hybridization analyses indicated that double, but not single, DNMT knock-out cells display two specific alterations in regional DNA copy number, suggesting that DNMT deficiency and genomic DNA hypomethylation are not associated with widespread genomic amplifications or deletions in human cancer cells. However, spectral karyotype analyses revealed that DNMT-deficient HCT116 cells are highly unstable with respect to large-scale chromosomal alterations; furthermore, this effect is characterized by a high degree of individual cell heterogeneity. The induction of chromosomal alterations in DNMT-deficient cells was evidenced both by aneuploidy and by large increases in the number of novel chromosomal translocations. Studies of double knock-out cells indicated that the generation of chromosomal alterations is spontaneous and persistent in vitro, meeting the formal definition of genomic instability. In summary, we show that DNMT deficiency in human cancer cells results in constitutive genomic instability manifested by chromosomal translocations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8635-8639
Number of pages5
JournalCancer Research
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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